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New ODA Bill 125
Media Coverage on ODA
November 6, 2001
Below are newspaper
articles on the new ODA bill, Bill 125. There has been a great deal
Below you will
find a Toronto Star editorial on the ODA, followed
by articles in the Toronto Star
An item on this
topic on TV Ontario's Studio 2 program last night will air again today
at 2:00 p.m.
Let us know your
feedback on any and all of the content of this coverage.
bill falls short of hopes
The proposed law would raise public awareness of the many barriers that impede people with disabilities from working, going to school or simply leading a normal life. But it wouldn't provide these citizens with the remedy they've long been waiting for - the removal of these barriers.
The bill would require municipalities, schools, transit systems, hospitals, universities and colleges to develop plans that identify barriers in their policies and programs. But there's no requirement for these bodies to implement their plans or set deadlines to eliminate the barriers.
Nor does the new Ontarians with Disabilities Act go beyond encouraging the private sector to make facilities and services more accessible. If moral suasion fails to produce the changes that are needed, nothing happens.
Provincial officials and community advocates agree that part of the problem is the lack of common standards to define accessibility. Two new councils will be created to set such standards and advise the government on future initiatives. But when the standards are in place, legislation must make them mandatory.
And to be truly effective, the legislation must cover housing, workplaces, education and transportation. Without such a comprehensive approach, residents will face a patchwork of standards that perpetuate many existing barriers. Recognizing a problem is the first step to solving it.
The legislation would establish a process that forces hospital administrators, municipal councillors, school principals and even provincial politicians to inventory the barriers that exist within their own institutions. But lists are not enough. Provincial politicians say they want a society free of barriers. Unless this law has teeth, it isn't going to happen.
The Ontarians with Disabilities Act introduced in the Legislature yesterday would increase fines for illegally parking in a disabled spot to a maximum of $5,000, up from $500. Citizenship Minister Cam Jackson said the proposed legislation is aimed at increasing accessibility, opportunity and independence for Ontarians with disabilities, putting them in a position to have a say in how the legislation will be finally drafted.
"Persons with disabilities deserve the right to lead lives of dignity and quality ... to experience the same fullness of opportunity, experience and participation as all other members of society," Jackson said. While the proposed law talks about making public buildings more accessible, it stops well short of forcing private businesses to make their buildings barrier free.
It's the Tories' second stab at bringing in a law that would make the province more accessible to the 1.6 million Ontarians with disabilities - something they promised to do six years ago. "It leaves it completely voluntary in the end,'' David Lepofsky, a blind Toronto lawyer, who heads the Ontarians With Disabilities Act Committee, which has been pressing Queen's Park for years to pass detailed legislation.
Lepofsky said the bill does not even include a requirement to remove barriers. "It sets up a bunch of advisory committees at the provincial and municipal levels but it doesn't require anybody to listen to them,'' he said. Jackson promised the proposed law in the end would set out some clear guidelines once public hearings are held and regulations are written.
But he could not give a time when the disabled can look forward to having unencumbered access to either public or private buildings. Creating rules and standards for access to buildings would be left to an advisory council, with members drawn from the disabled community across the province. Currently there are no standards. "We need to create (standards) quickly and then serve notice to the private sector ... those regulations will have teeth," Jackson said.
Among other things the law would also: Amend the Municipal Act to allow municipalities to require businesses to be accessible to persons with disabilities. Amend the Election Act so candidates and voters have easier access. Require municipalities, school boards, hospitals and public transportation boards to develop annual accessibility plans and make them public.
New Democratic Party Leader Howard Hampton called the announcement about two- thirds public relations and propaganda and one-third legislation. "I think it falls far short of what the disabled community was promised and what they've worked for over the last six years,'' he said.
Parking in spot for disabled could cost $5,000 in new law
Toronto: Fines for parking in spots for the disabled will be increased to $5,000, while new buildings will be subject to strict rules governing accessibility, the province announced yesterday. Other measures in a new bill include forcing businesses to insure accessibility as a condition of getting a licence from their municipalities.
Globe and Mail
could park here? That'll be $5,000
By comparison, failing to stop for a person in a wheelchair at a crosswalk carries a fine of $90. At the moment, the fine for illegally parking in a spot reserved for disabled motorists is $100. And someone who decides to park illegally at the provincial legislature will find themselves holding a $20 ticket. So the new penalty is quite a leap.
But while the fine will be onerous, advocates for the disabled say the occasional loss of a parking spot to an inconsiderate able-bodied person is just one small inconvenience in a life filled with barriers. "The parking issue is just a lightning rod to attract everybody's attention," said David Lepofsky, chairman of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.
"It's just one barrier for disabled people among gazillions." The law would require some provincially funded construction projects and existing buildings to meet accessibility standards. It would also establish a committee to oversee disability issues. But it won't force businesses to become more accessible.
And while municipal governments and private enterprises will be asked to consider improving accessibility, advocates for people with disabilities say they're dismayed at the lack of rules for enforcement. "Businesses can say, 'Gee, I thought about it, and now I'm going to continue doing what I normally do,' " Mr. Lepofsky said.
"Which is too bad, because if I'm a disabled person I'm more worried about getting into the local mall than City Hall." Ontario Citizenship Minister Cam Jackson said the standards might eventually become mandatory for the private sector if industry groups agree to new rules. But he emphasized that the government's main task should be setting an example by breaking down its own barriers to people with disabilities.
"Our strategy would continue this voluntary approach, for now," Mr. Jackson said, as he introduced the bill to the legislature. Many advocates for people with disabilities had been waiting for the new law since Premier Mike Harris promised the legislation in 1995. A similar bill died on the order paper when an election was called in May, 1999. Some described the law as a good start.
"The government is setting the tone, with every new building it buys or leases being accessible," said Duncan Read, past president of the Ontario March of Dimes. Discussions at the government's new committee, the Accessibility Advisory Council of Ontario, and public hearings to discuss the bill will also give advocates a chance to focus attention on disability issues, Mr. Read said.
"I think this gives us enormous potential." But the government is only establishing meaningless bureaucracy, said New Democratic Party Leader Howard Hampton. He said the advisory council is unnecessary because the Ontario Human Rights Commission already has the power to review whether buildings adequately meet the needs of people with disabilities. "This legislation is about one-third substance and two-thirds media spin," Mr. Hampton said.
Ontario drivers could face fines of up to $5,000 for parking in handicapped spots under proposed legislation.
The Ontarians with Disability Act, which was introduced yesterday, will also create the Accessibility Advisory Council of Ontario, a committee of disabled people who will work with the public and private sectors to make buildings and services more accessible.
"We have an opportunity here in Ontario to be the first in Canada to create a barrier-free province," says Citizenship Minister Cam Jackson.
"And we believe by putting the disabilities community as the decision-makers that they, in fact, will be able to work with their municipalities on the appropriate time frame for compliance."
The bill would also amend the Highway Traffic Act to increase fines for parking illegally in disabled spots to a maximum of $5,000 from the current maximum of $500. The minimum fine would rise to $300 from $60.
Premier Mike Harris promised an Ontarians with Disabilities Act while still in opposition, but several attempts to produce legislation have failed to gain support in the disabled community.
Yesterday, Jackson received applause from representatives of the disabled community as he exited the Legislature after introducing his bill.
Duncan Read, past president of the Ontario March of Dimes, said the bill is a historic moment for the disabled community and should allow them to eventually participate fully as citizens in society.
"I think this gives us enormous potential to do a lot of good," Read said. "I'm impressed that this gives us the tools to work with to build something positive for the 1.6 million of us who are disabled."
NDP Leader Howard Hampton said the bill is flawed because it doesn't require the private sector to make changes, and it asks municipalities only to file a plan.
"It doesn't require them to make their buildings accessible or their transit systems accessible; it doesn't put aside any money," Hampton said. "So really this thing is another attempt at public relations and at the same time the government is going to do as little as possible."
Hampton said the government should have made it law that all future construction on public buildings or businesses be barrier-free, and it should have put aside about $1 billion to make it happen. Read said he favours the government's approach, which calls on members of the disabled community, through the advisory council, to lead the process.
Jackson said his bill includes enforcement tools so that progress on accessibility takes place.
Activist cool to long-awaited disabled act
The law isn't tough enough on the private sector, says Cathy Vincent-Linderoos.
By DAN ROWE, Special to The Free Press and news services
The long-awaited Ontarians with Disabilities Act introduced yesterday doesn't go far enough and lets businesses off the hook, a local activist for the disabled says.
The bill -- which beefs up the fines for parking in a disabled spot and puts the onus on businesses to prove themselves accessible to get municipal licences -- received first reading yesterday.
Cathy Vincent-Linderoos, a London-area member of the provincewide, non-partisan Ontarians with Disabilities Act committee, said the act needs more teeth when dealing with the private sector.
"Making it mandatory is how you get what needs to be done."
The bill encourages the private sector to adopt the accessibility measures set out in the bill, but they're not obligatory.
Vincent-Linderoos has many questions about how effective the proposed bill will be.
"Will it apply to the private sector as well as the public sector?
Will it deal with all types of disabilities like sensory and cognitive?" Vincent-Linderoos asked.
"It's more than just making sure wheelchairs can get into buildings."
She called for open, full-access hearings.
Although the bill wouldn't force retrofits on existing buildings to make them more wheelchair friendly, future construction would have to include features that would improve accessibility for the disabled.
Businesses would be forced to prove themselves accessible as a condition of getting a licence from their municipality.
There was no estimate on how much it would cost businesses to make structural changes to their buildings.
Ontario Citizenship Minister Cam Jackson called the proposed bill "the most comprehensive legislation any province in the country has seen."
Among the most noteworthy of the proposed changes is an increase in the amount of a fine for parking illegally in a disabled parking spot to $5,000 from $500.
Jackson said the bill, which will be implemented in two phases, will deal almost exclusively with the public sector.
The first phase of the bill specifically targets government ministries.
"The legislation mandates all ministries to be compliant in a range of issues from the training of staff to communications," Jackson said.
The second phase targets universities, colleges, hospitals and municipalities, he said.
There will be specific new rules in place for municipalities if the bill is passed.
"An annual accessibility report has to be filed and made public.
This way, the disabled community will be able to examine the plan."
To ensure municipalities do what needs to get done, Jackson said, the legislation mandates the creation of an accessibility advisory council of councillors and community members to work with the municipal government.
"The legislation creates a framework for continuous change," he said.
New government dollars to implement all the changes required if the bill passes were not included as part of the legislation.
Jackson said any new funding will have to come through the usual budget process, but he indicated there's room for more government spending in this area.
"There is significant opportunity for a commitment of funds."
Premier Mike Harris first promised legislation for the disabled before his Conservatives were elected to office in 1995. Draft legislation made public three years ago was withdrawn after being panned by critics as useless.
- Bans new construction projects unless builders lay out a plan for eliminating barriers for those with physical, visual or hearing impairments.
- Increases fines for illegally parking in a disabled parking spot to $5,000 from the current $500.
- Forces businesses to prove themselves accessible as a condition of getting a licence from municipalities.
- Encourages private sector to adopt measures outlined in the bill, but they are not obligatory.
- Mandates the creation of an accessibility advisory council to deal with access issues on the municipal level.
Legislation to make Ontario goods and services more accessible to the province's 1.5 million disabled people will be introduced today by Citizenship Minister Cam Jackson.
But a group that has been pushing the province for more than six years to enact a law that would force both the public and private sectors to remove barriers and prevent new barriers from being created says the battle is far from over.
"The introduction of legislation is a huge victory for us," said David Lepofsky, chair of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.
"But it is an interim victory. We have to read the fine print to see how good it is. And if it needs improvements, we need public hearings to present the need for those improvements."
There are rumours the proposed law will focus on making new buildings and public transit systems accessible to the disabled. But Lepofsky said all goods and services - new and old - must be included if the law is to be truly effective.
about Braille on government application forms, accessible Web sites,
sign language services in hospitals. It's not just about buildings,"
he said yesterday.
A previous attempt to bring in legislation was withdrawn before the 1999 election amid a storm of protest from disabled groups who labelled the bill little more than window dressing.
There were signs last week that the government has adopted most of the principles Lepofsky's group espouses.
In a government "vision statement" on disability released last Thursday, Jackson (PC-Burlington South) said his goal is to work to create a barrier-free province where no new barriers to the disabled are created and old ones are removed.
"Our vision is ambitious," Jackson said in a statement.
"No other jurisdiction in Canada has made such a clear and comprehensive commitment to create more accessible communities and enhance the independence of persons with disabilities."
He said the government will use legislative and non-legislative initiatives as well as mandatory and voluntary measures to achieve its goal.
Lepofsky said his group will be watching to see if the proposed Ontarians with Disabilities Act includes protection for people with all disabilities - physical, mental and sensory - clear standards and an accountable public agency to enforce them, and mandatory barrier removal in a timely manner.
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